Water is essential for birds and while a simple bird bath can provide space for drinking and preening, more elaborate designs like bird bath fountains have many benefits and can attract more birds to any birder's yard.
About Bird Bath Fountains
A bird bath fountain is more than a simple basin filled with water. A bird fountain will include a pump to circulate the water into a flowing or splashing arrangement, as well as unique structures and designs to make the most of drips, splashes, and streams.
The pump may be solar, electric, or battery operated, and the flow capacity can vary from a simple spray or dribble to a larger, more vigorous waterfall. The overall capacities, depths, sizes, shapes, and materials for bird bath fountains vary greatly, but the most common and popular designs include:
- Tiered basins with smaller basins flowing or dribbling into a deeper bottom reservoir from several symmetrically spaced spouts
- A small spray or bubbler in the center of a single basin creating an upward fountain that splashes back into the pool
- Cascades of rocks, jars, or pots in a staircase arrangement of gradually increasing sizes with the largest reservoir at the bottom
- One or more spigots on the sides of the basin that spray toward the center, often onto a central figure or focal point
- Wall-mounted tiered designs that lack pedestals but offer the same flowing features, including small basins or bowls at the base
- Weeping styles where a small bubbler at the top flows over a rock or other textured surface into a lower basin but without aerial splashing
In addition to different styles of fountains, there is great variety in aesthetic looks. Geometric designs are popular, as are natural accents such as small sculptures or carvings of butterflies, flowers, birds, frogs, turtles, dragonflies, and other creatures that might enjoy the water.
When selecting a fountain, opt for a design that matches well with the theme or overall look of your yard or garden so it blends well with the landscape.
Pros and Cons of Bird Fountains
Because fountains can require more upkeep than a simple concrete bird bath or other basic basin, birders should carefully consider the pros and cons of these designs before investing in a fountain.
The pros of bird bath fountains include:
- Sounds: Splashing sounds attract a greater number of bird species, and the soft flow of water can be aesthetically pleasing for enjoying one's garden.
- Cleanliness: Recirculating water stays cleaner without the opportunity for algae buildup as quickly, and moving water is less likely to harbor mosquitoes or other insects.
- Size: With multiple tiers or larger space, a fountain can accommodate a greater number of birds and larger bird species without needing constant refills.
The cons of fountains include:
- Evaporation: Moving water will evaporate more quickly and if the basin is not kept filled, the pump could be damaged or will not work as efficiently if the water level is too low.
- Price: Because of the pump mechanism, bird bath fountains are typically more expensive than simpler models, and both battery and electric models require some minimal cost to operate.
- Seasonal Use: To protect delicate pumps and piping, fountains are not suitable outdoors in areas with winter freezes, though they can be used year-round in very mild or southern climates.
Where to Buy Bird Bath Fountains
While most garden centers or bird supply stores will have a limited selection of fountains suitable for bird bath use, a greater variety of sizes and designs can be found online. Retailers offering a variety of bird bath fountains include:
The price of fountains ranges from $100 to $500 (USD) and higher depending on the fountain's size, style, materials, and intricacy. Since fountains can be very heavy, be sure to include shipping costs to determine the total price, and investigate warranty and guarantee offers that may be necessary if the fountain does not function correctly.
Caring for a Fountain
A bird bath fountain can be easy to care for if the proper steps are taken to keep it functioning well. Before using the fountain, read all instructions carefully, and install the fountain as recommended on a level, sturdy surface where it is not likely to be bumped or tipped. Avoid placing the fountain near a bird feeder where the pump could be more easily clogged with discarded seed hulls or other debris, and use a small net (the same as used to catch fish in a fish tank) to regularly skim trash out of the fountain between cleanings to keep it working more smoothly. Discontinue fountain use long before freezing weather, and be sure it is fully drained and dry before storing it for the winter so no cracks or other damage occurs. To keep the pump working at its peak, check the water level daily and add more water as needed to replace what is lost to splashing, evaporation, and bird use.
A bird bath fountain can be a delightful addition to any garden, and the gentle splashing of water will not only attract more thirsty and curious birds, but will add more relaxation to any birder's yard.